With over 120km of underground tunnels filled with trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armoury, hospitals and command centres, the Cu Chi Tunnels are well worth the visit if you find yourself in Saigon!
We caught a taxi which took about an hour's drive from Saigon. You can organise visits through tour operators or you can simply arrive on your own at the tunnels, pay a small entry fee and you are then formed into a group where you will then be given a guide who works on site.
Before exploring the tunnels you are seated down to watch a small introductory video of how the tunnel system works and how the war came about. Once the video is finished your guide will then start taking you around the site explaining along the way all the methods and techniques the Vietnamese soldiers used to defend themselves and attack the enemy.
One thing that amazed me were these small trapdoor spaces that the Vietnamese covered in leaves used to camouflage and they would lift the lid to watch out for the enemy. Visitors are given the opportunity to squeeze themselves through this tiny opening and get a perspective of what the Vietnamese would have seen, I decided to admire above the surface!
We were also shown some of the ground level weapons and traps that were used to defend the Vietnamese soldiers. These traps were also well disguised and if an intruder took the wrong step they would be faced with an agonising stab to the leg! The Vietnamese were very smart with their traps however they weren't really designed to kill instantly so the unlucky enemy would be going through very long and tortuous pain.
Along the way you will see displays of mannequins wearing the uniform worn by the Vietnamese soldiers and positioned with what they would do in their down time for example writing notes. You will also see displays of tanks and other vehicles along with weapons and you will be shown different types of spaces and openings which were sometimes used as emergency exits and escape routes.
Parts of Cu Chi Tunnels have been cemented and widened so that the crawl is less daunting than what it would have been in the past but in saying that, if you are claustrophobic, suffer from joint pains or have breathing difficulties, I would strongly recommend that you give the tunnels a miss. These tunnels are no easy feat, even I found it to be quite difficult! The tunnels are very narrow, dusty, dark and you have no room to stand, you literally have to crouch or crawl through them.
These tunnels allow for a single file only so if you change your mind half way through there is no turning back so be sure you are 100% confident that you are ready and willing to make the journey. Doing the tunnels really opens your eyes to the living conditions these Vietnamese soldiers had to go through and you have so much appreciation for them for dealing with that environment!
There is a shooting range on site and for a small price you have the opportunity to fire one of the few weapons available that were used in the war and there's a small shop where you can buy drinks, snacks or souvenirs. There is also a small hut where they have people demonstrating how to make rice paper. Another highlight of this tour is when the group were seated down and we were given tea and boiled tapioca which is a type of root vegetable to try. This was the staple diet of what the Vietnamese soldiers ate while at battle.
Cu Chi Tunnels:
Opening hours - daily from 8am - 5pm.
Location - 45km northwest of Saigon.